In what analysts said may be a first, a member of an orchestra performing at an official event in North Korea this week was spotted wearing a t-shirt with the face of leader Kim Jong Un, according to video footage from state media.
An orchestra conductor wore the white t-shirt with Kim’s face on the front in black and white at a ceremony to mark the opening of a defense exhibition attended by Kim. The pictures were broadcast on Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station on Tuesday.
“It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for North Korea to manufacture clothing with a Kim leader’s face on it,” said Rachel Minyoung Lee, an analyst for 38 North, a U.S.-based program that tracks North Korea.
North Koreans routinely wear badges with images of the country’s leaders, but the photos, paintings and other imagery are treated very carefully in a country that idolizes the Kim family which has ruled for three generations.
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“The Kim leaders’ portraits and photos are sacred in North Korea,” Lee said. “They must not be scribbled on, folded, or damaged in any other way. In that vein, I imagine the t-shirt worn by the performers was for that one special event, not to be worn and washed in daily life.”